Linguistics and fiction

Most of these are from Mike Maxwell's posting to the Linguist List (19 Mar 1995). Others are from a list posted to the sci.lang newsgroup. None of the comments are mine.



Browning's home page

Suzette Haden Elgin. Native Tongue trilogy, including: The Native Tongue (wherein language and linguistics are prominent issues in a future society; Laadan is a language in development). Clans of linguists have become crucial because of their mediation with non-humans. Raises issues about innateness, the bioprogram, language learning, relationship between body stucture and language, as well as feminist issues), and Judas Rose.

Derek Bickerton. King of the Sea. (Not exactly science fiction. But deals with human-dolphin communication. Best explanation of Bickerton's bioprogram available with a valuable dicussion also of the problems of having a meaningful relationship with a dolphin.).

Arnason. A Woman of the Iron People.

Vonarburg. In the Motherland.

Robert Sheckley. Shall We Have a Little Talk? (for the evil Earth capitalist empire to take over a planet, they have to buy some land on the planet. A representative goes to some planet to start negotiating for a land purchase and finds that every day the language has changed, not only in vocabulary but in grammar. At one point, he exclaims "Stop agglutinating!" The inhabitants of the planet are using accelerated language change as a defense mechanism, and at the end of the story, they are communicating in identical monosyllables).

David Carkeet. Double Negative (one respondent called this "a murder mystery in which a linguist uses his knowledge of child language acquisition to solve the murder"; another said it involved the human/animal boundary).

Samuel Delany. Babel 17, Triton (latter takes on the arbitrariness of the relationship between form and meaning and builds a whole society around it, starting with, of course, an artificially engineered environment on a moon (of Saturn?)); Neveryon series (second-hand report says it incorporates a good deal of linguistics).

Brian Aldiss "Confluence" -- consisting entirely of a lexicon of words in an alien language, tentatively translated into English. It's in Judith Merril, ed., SF 12, Dell, N.Y., 1968.

M. A. Foster _Day of the Klesh_ (sequel to _The Gameplayers of Zan_; there is also a prequel. All three novels feature the Ler, a race of genetically engineered humans designed to be physically and mentally superior to us garden-variety types. The language of the Ler is built largely on Slavic roots and is highly regular in form, and has different "modes", distinguished by vocabulary, inflection and phonetic manifestation, as well as at the "psi" level. The different modes have different purposes; one to be used at home with family, one public, one for lovers, and one that packs a psychic compulsion to do whatever the speaker is demanding.)

Ian Watson. The Embedding. (Universal Grammar, generative syntax.)

Goulet. Oh's Profit (the main character is a signing gorilla named Oh, and there's a Chomsky sound-alike baddie called Sandground).

Pamela Sargent. After Long Silence (actually it has to do with communication more by music than by language, but communication with alien intelligences at any rate)

John Berryman. "Something to Say" in _Analog_ (1966-67)

James P Hogan. Inherit the Stars.

Janet Kagan. Hellspark, Uhura's Song.

Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash.

Jack Vance. Languages of Pao. (Comparative linguistics, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (weak form), semantics.)

Walter Jon Williams. "Surfacing".

Roger Zelazny. "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (?)

Russel Hoban. Riddley Walker (The whole thing is in the narrator's own dialect, which is a future form of English.)

Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange (futuristic version of anglicized Russian).

Frank Herbert. Dune (carefully worked out historical derivations of Arabic religious language set thousands of years in the future).

Delany, Samuel R. Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand. (language change, alien languages)

Delany, Samuel R. The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction (essays about how sentences work in SF as distinct from other kinds of writing).

Delany, Samuel R. Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction.

Meyers, Walter E. Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1980. (A scholarly work analyzing the linguistics in SF... how plausable it is, frequent errors that SF authors make when talking about linguistics, and examples of good linguistics.)

Barnes, Myra Edwards. Linguistics and Languages in Science Fiction-Fantasy. New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Geoff Pullum's essay `Some lists of things about books' in NLLT 6:2 (1988), pp. 283-290, and reprinted in Geoff's book _The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax_, 1991, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 190-200. (list of six SF novels featuring linguistics)

Brin, David. Sundiver. (language change, animal language, dolphins)

Clarke, Arthur C. Rendezvous with Rama. (animal language, apes)

Heinlein, Robert A. Red Planet (alien language: phonetics, semantics); Stranger in a Strange Land (alien language: phonetics, semantics, shading into mysticism); The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (future dialects of English)

Le Guin, Ursula. Always Coming Home (invented language: semantics, grammar, etc.); The Left Hand of Darkness (invented language: semantics).

Orwell, George. 1984 (invented language: semantics, sociolinguistics, language and thought).

Tolkein, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings (invented languages, historical change, writing systems).

Womack, Jack. Terraplane (language change, dialect differences).

Zelazny, Roger. Eye of Cat (alien language).

Carr, Terry. "The Dance of the Changer and the Three" in The Best of Terry Carr.

Haldeman, Joe. "A Tangled Web" in Dealing in Futures (humorous alien language).

Haldeman, Joe. "Anniversary Project," in Infinite Dreams (the evolution of human language).

Heinlein, Robert A. "Gulf," in 6 X H (superior language; the limits of language).

Murphy, Pat. "Rachel in Love" in Points of Departure (animal language -- chimps).

Robinson, Kim Stanley. "The Translator" in Universe 1 (edited by Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber) (a fresh look at the automatic translator).

Sallis, James. "The Attitude of the Earth Towards Other Bodies," in Full Spectrum 2 (edited by Lou Aronica, et. al) (Universal Grammar).

Williams, Walter Jon. "Surfacing" in Facets (alien grammar/semantics).

Poul Anderson's "Delenda Est" in "Worlds of Maybe" (1960s; incorporated as a chapter in a recent Anderson book; someone undid the Second Punic War and Carthage became a major power in Europe. Anderson creates at least two languages that might have been - a Celtic language with Semitic loanwords that would be used in North America, and a Germanic language spoken by tribes that took over the Italy that had a power vacuum.)

Hal Clement. Ocean on Top.

Poul Anderson. "A Tragedy of Errors" in _The Long Night_, from Tor. (a planet that has new meaning for words like friend, slave, and business.)

-----------------alien languages

"Tlon, Uqbar, Tertius Orbis" in FICCIONES - Jorge Luis Borges
40000 IN GEHENNA - C.J. Cherryh
BABEL-17 - Samuel R. Delany (1966)
FLIGHT OF THE DRAGONFLY - Robert L. Forward (1984)
THE HAUNTED STARS - Edmond Hamilton
"Omnilingual", in FEDERATION - H. Beam Piper
CONTACT - Carl Sagan (1985)
PSYCHAOS - E. P. Thompson
"A Martian Odyssey" in SF HALL OF FAME - Stanley Weinbaum (1934)
"A Rose for Ecclesiastes" in SF HALL OF FAME - Roger Zelazny (1963)

---------------futuristic varieties of English

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - Anthony Burgess (1962)
HELLFLOWER - eluki bes shahar
THE INHERITORS - William Golding (1955)
THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS - Robert Heinlein (1966)
RIDDLEY WALKER - Russel Hoban (1980)
1984 - George Orwell (1948)

---------------other invented languages

NATIVE TONGUE - Suzette Haden Elgin (1984)
"Gulf" in ASSIGNMENT IN ETERNITY - Robert A. Heinlein (1949)
DUNE - Frank Herbert (1965)
THE LORD OF THE RINGS - J R R Tolkien (1954-55)
THE MEMORANDUM - Vaclav Havel (1966)
THE LANGUAGES OF PAO - Jack Vance (1957)

------------------linguist heroes

PYGMALION - George Bernard Shaw (1912)
THE POISON ORACLE - Peter Dickinson (1974)
HANDS ON - Andrew Rosenheim (1992)

------------------animal language

WATERSHIP DOWN - Richard Adams
TARZAN OF THE APES - Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)
CONGO - Michael Crichton

------------------use of linguistic theory

SNOW CRASH - Neal Stephenson (1992)
GULLIVER'S TRAVELS - Jonathan Swift (1726)
THE EMBEDDING - Ian Watson (1973)
Ozark trilogy - Suzette Haden Elgin


THE TROIKA INCIDENT - James Cooke Brown (1969) [Loglan]
LOVE ME TOMORROW - Robert Rimmer (1976) [Loglan]
ETXEMENDI - Florence Delay [Chomsky ref]
TONGUES OF THE MOON - Philip Jose Farmer
THE DISPOSSESSED - Ursula LeGuin (1974)